ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The president's speech over, Osama bin Laden confirmed dead, jubilant midshipmen streamed out of their dorms Sunday night and into Tecumseh Court, one of the central gathering spots at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Dressed casually in T-shirts and baseball caps, the crowd grew into the thousands. Some smoked celebratory cigars. After midnight, a brigade commander told the crowd that it was the elite Navy SEALs who had killed the world's most wanted terrorist.
"We went pretty crazy," said Michael Spinello, a Naval Academy sophomore.
Chanting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" and singing patriotic songs, some midshipmen marched to the homes of Superintendent Michael H. Miller and Captain Robert E. Clark III, the academy's dean. Both leaders emerged to address the students, with Clark appearing exuberant and using off-color language.
Spinello was among many midshipmen with cameras that night, and he posted video of the event on YouTube, broadcasting worldwide the supposedly private, spontaneous celebration. He said administrators ordered him to take the videos down Monday afternoon because the comments by the school's leaders "were not meant for the general public."
The footage provided a rare and candid glimpse of typically decorous midshipmen who live and study according to a strict military code. One academy spokeswoman confirmed the video's accuracy, and another said there would be no events to mark the death of bin Laden. Classes resumed as scheduled Monday, she said.
But the scene on campus was anything but composed immediately after bin Laden's death was announced. Standing on what appeared to be a porch, Clark told the crowd that he had commanded the U.S.S. Connecticut in 2001, and recounted gathering his crew after the attacks of September 11.
"I told them, 'I don't know when, I don't know how, but someday we're going to get that son of a bitch,"' Clark said, to wild cheers from students.
"Today we made a statement to the world, that you can hit us, you can knock us down, but we're gonna get up, and when we do we will find you and kick your ass."
In a separate video, Miller used a megaphone to speak with what appeared to be several dozen students. He told them he was in New York City on the day of the attacks and later saw the damage done to the Pentagon building.
"I've got to tell you," Miller said, "that day we all felt like there was going to be an opportunity for justice. And it came, today."
Spinello said he recorded the speeches because he wanted to capture a "momentous occasion." Though he had meant the videos just for his family and friends, he said, by the time he took them down, they had been seen more than 7,600 times. They were also mentioned on the blog Business Insider.
Spinello said he had considered joining the Navy SEALs, but now wants to be an aviator. He has vivid memories of the Sept. 11 attacks, and said he knew he knew he wanted to join the military the moment the planes hit the twin towers and the Pentagon..
"It was pretty electric," Spinello said of the atmosphere on campus Monday night. "A lot of camaraderie came out."
By Monday morning, the Naval Academy had returned to normal, with uniformed midshipmen walking to and from class on a warm, bright spring day. Groups of elementary school children toured the grounds, led by guides dressed in colonial garb.
Nearby at City Dock, tourists and Maryland residents expressed relief at the news and admiration for the precision with which bin Laden was found and killed.
Heather Skipper, who works in tourism in Annapolis, said several family members -- including her sister and father -- are Naval Academy graduates, while other friends and family members are currently serving in the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's actually a very proud moment for the Navy and the Seals in general," the 33-year-old said. "Whether they were directly involved or not, it's just a proud moment for them."
Adrian Slatter, who was visiting Annapolis from the United Kingdom with his wife Tamsin and their two sons, said the attack "sounds like it was a fantastic operation."
"Ten years," Slatter said of the period between the Sept. 11 attacks and bin Laden's death. "It's incredible."
Skipper, who was attending college on the Eastern Shore at the time of the attacks, said bin Laden's death brought a feeling of closure.
"I know it's not the end of the fight against terrorism," she said, "but it makes a huge step for the United States."
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